Living into our values means that we do more than profess our values, we practice them. We walk our talk — we are clear about what we believe and hold important, and we take care that our intentions, words, thoughts, and behaviors align with those beliefs.
Planning meetings are seldom glamorous. Calendars are a must. Events and projects will get listed. Names of potential volunteers are floated. To-do lists grow. If all goes as designed, everyone goes home with their share of tasks to complete. Planning meetings are a necessary part of the life of any organization—business, nonprofit, or church. We’ve all been part of planning sessions, some productive, some perfunctory, and others fruitless. I don’t know about you, but just writing those sentences make me tired!
My response may have something to do with those “planning for planning’s sake” meeting I’ve been a part of, when everyone there is already overtaxed, and the last thing they want to do is add to their workload. People leave such meetings with their shoulders sagging and their hearts heavy. It’s a recipe for burnout and disappointment.
Planning sessions don’t have to be that way. With focus, intentionality, a wee bit of flexibility, and a whole lot of grace, folks with a common purpose can come together to map out their next steps, breathe new life into ongoing projects, and imagine new endeavors. Productive planning starts with knowing the groups core values and using those values to design and evaluate the work of the group.
I’ve spent much of my time this past year listening, paying attention to stories of what you’ve done as a congregation, what you miss, what you hope for. It’s been a challenge in a pandemic, and I hope to have many more conversations to come. One of the things I’ve been listening for are what the core values of this congregation are. Sometimes those values are explicitly named, other times they show up as common threads in activities and projects in which people are invested. Every church community is different.
Here’s a start at what I’m learning about FCC Morehead, in no particular order.
What do you think of it? Any thing you would add?
Which ones do you think are core values of our congregation?
Any questions about how I see these values in our congregational life?
When a congregation is clear about its values, we can focus the planning process. Planning sessions can take on new life, as we evaluate, dream, and design our activities through the lens of our core values.
In a few weeks FCC ministry leaders and volunteers will come together for an annual planning workshop. We’ll focus on our values and how what we choose to focus on in the coming year reflects those priorities. I invite all of you, whether you’re a part of that planning meeting or not, to pray for our work. May the Spirit guide us as we seek to be faithful to God’s call for us here and now.
With Christ’s grace and peace,
We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.
As part of the one body of Christ we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us.
—2008 Identity Statement, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
I must confess it is difficult for me to wrap my mind around the fact that I am writing the first pastor’s column of my second year serving alongside you in ministry at First Christian Church of Morehead, KY. Time has passed strangely these last 12 months. Some of you I have met with weekly on Zoom over the past 12 months. We’ve shared in communion together in weekly vespers. Others have gathered virtually for film festival discussions during Advent and Lent. We’ve held Lenten tea time conversations on Monday afternoons and monthly book study discussions. I’ve joined with a wonderful group of women for Tuesday night Bible studies. These gatherings have been rich and meaningful. I’ve learned much about you, and you have gotten to know me (and my dog Stoney) through these conversations. And now we are carefully coming back together for in person gatherings, for Sunday worship and for planning meetings. In person gatherings means we have the chance to get to know one another in those wonderfully normal, everyday conversations that happen in those informal moments, before worship begins or after a meeting is concluded.
As with any new relationship we’ve been adjusting to one another. I’m learning some of your favorite traditions and practices, finding commonalities and differences with my experiences in other Disciples congregations. And in turn, you’re getting used to my leadership style, the priorities I bring to my calling as a pastor, and the gifts I have to offer. These past twelve months have been a time of learning and growth for all of us. I’m grateful for the hospitality you’ve shown me and for the graciousness of all of the leaders and volunteers of this congregation as we’ve navigated these challenging days.
This next year is overflowing with possibilities. Our church leadership will face many choices on how best to live faithfully together. Faithful decision making takes time and intention, and is always rooted in the spiritual practice of prayerful discernment. Thank goodness the work of the church is not a sprint; it’s not even a marathon (with a nod to the Apostle Paul), we are called to a lifelong pilgrimage of faith. As we plan together our next steps, we’ll reflect on where God has been with us in the past, and listen for where the Spirit is leading us now. And we’ll hold before us the vision and rich tradition and the present calling of this congregation, reflecting on how these familiar words can guide our path forward:
We are Disciples….
We reach out and within.
We prepare God’s table for all, as it was prepared for us.
We embrace the old, the heartsick, the outcast, the different.
We believe Love wins.
We have a clear sense we are on a journey in the right direction and we’re on the journey together….
We are Disciples.
With great hope and anticipation,
A native of Illinois, Rev. Nancy Gowler lived for 26 years in the Pacific Northwest. She joined the ministry of First Christian Church in Morehead, KY, in July of 2020.